Madrid, March 26 (IANS) The number of coronavirus deaths in Spain has surpassed China, where the pandemic originated last December, to become the second worst-hit country in terms of fatalities after Italy.
According to update by the Washington-based John Hopkins University, Spain has recorded a total of 3,647 deaths, while the death toll in China stood at 3,291.
Italy tops the list of global deaths at 7,503.
A total of 49,515 confirmed cases means Spain has a nationwide fatality rate of around 7.2 per cent. New cases rose by 20 per cent.
According to Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s emergency public health department, the fatality ratio has levelled out in recent days and figures seem to indicate that Spain is approaching a peak in coronavirus cases, reports Efe news.
“If we are not already at the peak, then we are close,” he said in his daily briefing on Wednesday.
The new figures were released halfway through a crucial week for Spain as authorities monitor whether a draconian national lockdown adopted 11 days ago has led to a flattening of the curve of new infections.
But concerns have been raised over the welfare of the country’s health careworkers after figures showed that they accounted for more than 13 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Spain, an issue the government has put down to difficulties accessing a highly competitive market for protective gear and equipment.
Health Minister, Salvador Illa on Wednesday announced a new deal with China for the provision of hundreds of millions of medical items.
He said the deal would see Spain receive 550 million masks – only six million have been distributed in the first 10 days of the health crisis so far – 5.5 million rapid testing kits and 11 million pairs of gloves over the next four to eight weeks.
“The supply is going to be weekly, in a staggered manner. The first will be done at the end of this week,” he told a press conference. “Additionally, the Spanish government is implementing the domestic production of all these items.”
The number of ventilators included in the deal for those being monitored in ICU is substantially less, with 950 expected to be delivered between April and June.
The contract with China, valued at 432 million euros ($466 million), came after a phone conversation between the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Meanwhile, the immediate effect of the coronavirus pandemic on Spain’s employment figures, between those who have lost jobs and those now unable to work, will be released as usual at the end of the month.
Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriba said the government was studying a basic living wage to those affected by this crisis.
Spanish lawmakers were set to vote on the extension of the country’s lockdown by two more weeks, meaning some 47 million Spaniards could be kept housebound until at least mid-April.